Heed Neglect, Disrupt Child Maltreatment: a Call to Action for Researchers

Lindsey Rose Bullinger, Megan Feely, Kerri M. Raissian, William Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Child neglect is the most common type of child maltreatment and neglect is present in 80% of the child fatalities attributed to maltreatment. The disruption of child maltreatment must then prioritize neglect prevention. To date, maltreatment prevention efforts have been most effective for physical and sexual abuse. However, traditional prevention strategies and the supporting research have proven to be less effective at preventing neglect. We posit that a new approach of focusing on macro-level factors, such as economies, labor markets, and governmental affairs, should be investigated. These macro-level factors play a key, yet underexplored role in family circumstances, and they strongly influence parents’ ability to consistently provide safe and sufficient environments for their children. Existing research, policies, and programs have successfully improved the health and safety of children in many areas including reducing physical and sexual abuse and reducing child deaths from disease and car accidents. Yet, these strategies have not been implemented in the area of child neglect, partially because the research community does not fully understand the causes of neglect. To inform new directions for child protection, we propose shifting the focus of research on neglect away from individual and family-level factors of indicated populations. And, we suggest focusing on macro-level factors that, while receiving far less attention from researchers, show initial promise for understanding the causal pathways of neglect and identifying policies for universal prevention. We conclude with recommendations for advancing the precision and quality of research in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Disruption
  • Macro-level factors
  • Neglect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Health(social science)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Law


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